Mississippi blog from Memphis TN“You girls want a chance at a free dinner cruise?”

The question rang out from behind us, all twangy like, as we walked down the ramp toward shore after a 1.5-hour riverboat tour. The day was wet and cold, so the last thing I wanted to do was get back on that boat. But free stuff is free stuff, right? So I turned around. And there was Teddy.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!

“You girls want a free dinner cruise?” he asked again. He stood there grinning, a sledgehammer casually slung over his shoulder. “Um … what do we have to do?” I asked. He launched into a long explanation to which I can’t possibly do justice (“see that pole over there? you just gotta pull the pin out ‘n then” etc.), then ended with a laugh. “But you don’t have steel-toe boots, do you. Your boyfriends wouldn’t like crushed toes.”

The chance to hear more from this guy was too good to pass up. We asked for a few minutes of his time, and found out that Teddy (“like the bear”) is a deckhand and nursing student training to be a captain. As the last of the tourists dispersed, he and a handful of other crew members were preparing to move the riverboat’s floating dock in closer to the bank, because of rising waters. “It’ll just be five minutes, you oughta watch,” he said.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Forty-five minutes later, shivering but hardly in a position to complain, we had witnessed a remarkable effort involving a pickup truck on steep, wet cobblestones; scraping metal and spooling cables; the riverboat captain using his craft to push the dock; and all the grunts, groans, and heaving that went along with it. There was nothing computerized or high-tech about this maneuver — just the reality of life alongside a mighty river.